I went to the Stars game last night, and therefore did not get a chance to enjoy the nightly Mavericks train wreck until this morning. Question: What the heck are they doing right now?
Are they lost, or do they just appear lost? They don’t look like they have any sort of a sense of identity right now. They frankly look poorly coached, although I realize that would then call into question the infallible Avery Johnson. I am as guilty as anyone, but if I didn’t know better I would call the coach out for allowing shooter after shooter to inexplicably lose any Maverick Defender with a simple screen. Or, how about not figuring out how to use your MVP while he is guarded by a 6 foot point guard.
There is no question Dirk looks lost. I wonder if his resolve has been permanently damaged with the disaster last May and the subsequent backpacking expedition. I am wondering about the fire burning inside. But, he is now being joined by many of his mates, and his coach. They have repeatedly reminded us that the regular season is meaningless. And their performances show us they believe what they say.
They seem neither fish nor fowl. And to allow Manu to do whatever he wants while Duncan sits in street clothes must be enough to make Mark Cuban’s head spin.
The Spurs get it done …
Ninety minutes before tipoff Wednesday night, Manu Ginobili sat in the Spurs locker room, feverishly working on a text message.
Just to be on the safe side, the left-hander let his right finger do all the talking.
He knew something that, at that moment, few outside the locker room walls did: Before the night was over, he would have better uses for his shooting hand.
Shaking off a sore index finger he had injured two nights earlier, Ginobili celebrated his return to the starting lineup by pumping in a season-high 37 points to lift the Tim Duncan-less Spurs past rival Dallas, 97-95.
"There was no doubt in my mind I was going to help these guys tonight," Ginobili said. "Of course, I didn't think I would have a game like this."
Nursing a sprained right ankle, Duncan spent the game on the AT&T Center sidelines looking dapper — if slightly uncomfortable — in his league-mandated suit jacket.
The Spurs, still stinging from a 105-92 loss at Dallas in November that Ginobili called "embarrassing," weren't about to use the absence of their nine-time All-Star as an excuse.
Ginobili wouldn't let them.
He scored 16 points during the third quarter, practically willing the Spurs (16-3) out of a 10-point first-half hole and into the lead for good.
By the time Ginobili's third quarter was done, the Spurs held a seven-point edge.
His night ended after two last gasps by the Mavs. Francisco Elson swatted a Jason Terry layup attempt into the first row with two seconds left. Then Dirk Nowitzki missed what Dallas coach Avery Johnson called a "stone-cold, wide-open 3-pointer" as time expired that would have given the Mavericks the victory.
Instead, the Spurs won their 11th consecutive home game to start the season, extending a club record.
"I didn't expect anything less than what we got tonight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "You could win or you could lose, but we knew the effort was going to be there."
Tony Parker finished with 23 points, and Michael Finley — moving to the bench so Ginobili could start — hit three crucial second-half 3-pointers as the Spurs broke a four-game losing streak to Dallas (12-7).
Nowitzki sleepwalked his way to 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting. A good part of the time, Nowitzki found himself defended by Parker, the Spurs' point guard, who offered a decent turn as the team's new resident "Dirk stopper."
Dirk is not even the Mavs MVP right now …
Dirk Nowitzki has done many wondrous things for the Mavericks. But their 1-2 road trip that ended Wednesday night with a thud in San Antonio will never make it on his personal highlight reel.
For the second time in three games, Nowitzki missed a wide-open 3-pointer that could have delivered the Mavericks a comeback victory. Instead, they got what they deserved – a 97-95 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, who played without Tim Duncan.
He spent the evening harmlessly in street clothes because of a sprained right ankle. And at the end, the Mavericks got the same from their MVP as the Spurs did from theirs.
It's hard to pin the loss solely on Nowitzki. He wasn't responsible for Manu Ginobili going off for a season-best 37 points.
But when Jason Terry keyed a fourth-quarter rally to get the Mavericks in position to steal a win, it was Nowitzki who came up empty.
In New Orleans, he missed a 3-pointer that could have avoided overtime in a game the Mavericks went on to lose. After a solid night in the win over Chicago, Wednesday's effort at AT&T Center was forgettable.
The last shot typified things. Without Duncan, San Antonio played a smaller lineup and swarmed Nowitzki when he got the ball. Too often, the ball never got to the open man on the weak side of the floor.
"I just got to be more aggressive when it's there and swing it if it's not," Nowitzki said. "I'm just finding my way of finding when to shoot and be aggressive and when to swing it and make my teammates better. Hopefully, we as a team, and I will get better from month to month, so we'll be there at the end."
As poorly as the Mavericks played, the last play could have salvaged the entire night. Terry had 10 points in a row to lead the Mavericks back. They trailed by as much as 10 late in the fourth quarter. But Terry's three-point play with 33.8 seconds left made it 97-95.
After Bruce Bowen missed for the Spurs, Terry had a drive blocked by Francisco Elson with two seconds left.
On the final play, Nowitzki went on the baseline, got pushed out of bounds, then found himself getting lonely in the right corner. The shot clanged badly off the front of the iron.
"I kind of messed up the play," he said. "I took the wrong route, and they messed up the switching, and I was wide-open. It looked good. It was on line, just a little short. It's a shot that I got to make."
Avery Johnson ran down a long laundry list of other problems the Mavericks had against the Spurs. But Nowitzki's play clearly wasn't MVP-caliber on the trip.
"He's still climbing up the mountain right now," Johnson said. "He's seen a lot of double- and triple-teams, and when he's getting some of those looks that he normally makes, they're just not going down as consistently as in the past. But he's going to get it going, and once he gets it going, we know what he can do."
Among other problems was the pitiful defense on Ginobili, who had 16 points in the third quarter, when the Spurs outscored the Mavericks, 31-17.
"We gave him all kinds of looks," Johnson said. "We even put three guys on him and when we did that, other guys made shots. We tried to get the ball out of his hands and when we did, he made the correct pass. And when he didn't pass, he got to the line or made shots."
"But we got the ball with two seconds left and had a stone-cold wide-open 3-pointer, but it just didn't go down."
Meanwhile, the Sharks are strong to quite strong …Joe Thornton is amazing…
On the scoreboard, the Stars were always chasing the San Jose Sharks.
It felt that way on the ice, too. And when Joe Thornton saw two plays no one else did, the Stars were trying to explain a 3-2 loss Wednesday in their homecoming from a six-game road trip.
"Our ability to make plays and pass and skate with the puck was really ineffective tonight and below average," Mike Modano said. "We just didn't have much puck possession. It seemed like most of the night we were chasing it around. By the time you get it, you're too tired to do anything with it anyways."
The Sharks outshot the Stars 28-19 and never trailed.
"Five-on-five, we just need to be better and get the pucks out of our zone and into theirs and create opportunities," Stu Barnes said.
The game had significant ramifications on the Pacific Division, more than the standings reflected on first glance.
The Sharks (13-8-4) moved within two points of the Stars despite having played three fewer games.
And the Pacific just got even more competitive. Defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim got a boost with the announced return of defenseman Scott Niedermayer.
Thornton was the game's unquestioned dominant force and first star, with two assists and the game-winning goal at 11:24 of the third period.
He dumped the puck into the trapezoidal area of the Stars zone where goaltender Marty Turco was not allowed to play the puck.
Milan Michalek won the race to the loose puck and was able to shovel the pass to Thornton, who scored rumbling to the Stars' net.
"He's a rare combination of big and unbelievable skill, great hands, a great shot," Barnes said of Thornton, who has 34 points in 26 games. "A great player and a great game."
Kitna vs James/Newman rolls on …
The battle of pregame rhetoric started in January by Jon Kitna took another turn Wednesday, as the Detroit quarterback explained his side of things.
After the Lions' 39-31 win over Dallas in the 2006 regular-season finale, Kitna blasted the Cowboys' defense on a Seattle radio show, particularly linebacker Bradie James and cornerback Terence Newman.
About James, Kitna said: "We really felt like No. 56, sometimes I don't know that he knew where he was at."
And on Newman, Kitna said: "He's not [Seattle's] Marcus Trufant. He doesn't have that kind of ability."
Kitna passed on making his scheduled appearance with Dallas-Fort Worth reporters.
But he did address the comments he made in January to the Detroit media Wednesday.
"The media department here prepared me for that and told me about that. That was something that unfortunately has been taken as something that was serious," Kitna said. "It was something that I said to my hometown radio station after our season was over, and we were having a good time back there. It was really nothing that was a personal thing. Unfortunately, it's been used in a way that I was trying to degrade players and that's really not what it was about.... Are they going to want to hit me harder? I doubt it."
He might not be correct in saying that. James and Newman have taken exception.
During an interview on Sirius Satellite Radio this week, Newman said, "Basically what it boils down to is you've got to watch what you say. Your mouth can't write checks that your [butt] can't cash.
"He better just hope I don't blitz off the edge because I've got $15, $25, $30 [thousand], however much [money] it would be for a fine. I've got that much for one fine. Revenge will be sweet, definitely."
but Kitna was just kidding …right…
James seemed more upset.
"He talked about everybody on the defense, then he singled me out," James told reporters at Cowboys headquarters in Irving. "I'll be ready. I'm looking for it."
Kitna said Wednesday he wasn't being disrespectful to the Cowboys. In a file copy of the interview, Kitna's tone was lighthearted but analytical.
"That was something that, unfortunately, has been taken as something that was serious, something I said to my hometown radio station after our season was over," Kitna said.
"We were having a good time back there. It was nothing that was a personal thing. We were trying to have fun on the radio station back there. Unfortunately, it's been used in a way like I was trying to degrade players. And that's not really what it was about."
Kitna was effusive in his praise of this year's Cowboys.
"There's not much difference between them and New England right now, to be honest with you -- the way they're playing, the confidence they're playing with," he said. "For us, it's a game where last year we won that game probably playing a B-plus kind of game.
"A B-plus will not win the game for us this year. We've got to play our best game to date."
Marc Colombo could miss Sunday …
Two days after he was held out of practice as a "precaution," the diagnosis on Marc Colombo's left ankle changed Wednesday for the worse.
Coach Wade Phillips said the starting right tackle, who missed a second straight practice, will likely be a game-time decision Sunday in Detroit.
"It's commendable that he went back in and played, and he actually did a good job for us," Phillips said of last week's game vs. Green Bay. "But it bothered his ankle more than we thought. He's going to try to go some tomorrow and we'll see where he is."
Colombo was injured on a 21-yard screen pass to Julius Jones on the team's first possession, and missed the first play of the second possession, with second-year swing tackle Pat McQuistan subbing in at right tackle. Phillips said McQuistan would start if Colombo can't play Sunday, and that he'd likely activate rookie Doug Free, the team's fourth-round draft pick, for the first time this year to provide depth.
During the portion of practice open to media, Colombo limped on to the practice field with his ankle taped. He then spent time going through stretching exercises with associate trainer Britt Brown.
Road warriors: The Cowboys have won their first five road games for only the third time in franchise history, joining the 1968 and 1983 teams. The 1968 Cowboys, which finished 7-0 away from home, are the only one to reach 6-0.
"It says a lot about the tenacity of the team, which reflects coaching," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "And I think we have had games where we didn't play as well. You can criticize us for it, but we got back in there to make plays and overcome and win."
Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, the Cowboys have never been better than 6-2 on the road, which they were in 1983 and from 1992-95. A win Sunday in Detroit guarantees these Cowboys at least that.
"I think that's the sign of a mature team," linebacker Greg Ellis said. "This team, years-wise, is young. Got a young quarterback, a lot of young players playing key roles on this team. But they're mature for their age."
Aggie News = Felony for starting OLmen …
Two Texas A&M football players were arrested Wednesday in connection with an alleged armed robbery that occurred at an off-campus apartment complex Nov. 29.
Yemi Babalola, a starting offensive lineman from Bryan, Texas, was charged with aggravated robbery and possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. Aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony and is punishable from five to 99 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Brandon Joiner, a defensive end from Killeen, Texas, was charged with possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. Joiner also was charged with possession of one to four ounces of the drug known as "Ecstasy" and possession of less than 28 grams of hydrocodone.
According to a College Station police report, officers responded to an armed robbery call at the Callaway Villas Apartments. A resident said two black men entered the apartment and struck the person who opened the door.
A second resident ran upstairs and escaped through a window. The first resident and a friend were bound with tape while one of the assailants pointed a semi-automatic handgun in their faces.
Several small items were taken, and the intruders fled on foot. One resident reported minor bruises to his face, the report said.
College Station police executed a search warrant of Babalola's residence Wednesday and discovered the drugs. A second warrant was executed at Joiner's residence and drugs were found.
Meet the Parents – lovely vase
Joe Thornton Mix Tape